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Selling Durham

(Cartoon by George Longley)

In this time of trade war and divisive international relations, Durham Region appears to be fairing well.

Economic development staff are reporting high interest from world markets, and are working to attract a wide range of investments from European companies.

While a recent report from the region noted that some of this attraction to Canadian markets and places like Durham may be a result of President Donald Trump and his recent spat with the Canadian government and ensuing tariffs, there are other factors at play as well.

For one, Durham Region is doing well at selling itself to the world.

Of six investment ‘missions’ undertaken by the region’s economic staff, it resulted in nearly 10 times the amount of leads. Many of them may not lead to anything, but with more than 20 of these cases still under consideration, it could mean big things for the years to come.

And that’s the key. These types of large investments from overseas companies take time, and getting out there and planting the seed as soon as possible is what sets Durham up for success down the road.

The workforce is here, of those in Durham between the ages of 18 and 63, approximately 83 per cent have a degree, diploma or certificate of some kind. And the customers are here too, with a population reaching 673,000 in 2016, that number is expected to almost double to 1.2 million by 2014.

In terms of future priorities, any councillor elected in October’s municipal election, would be smart to consider a focus on ensuring land is ready for future development. Making sure that land is shovel-ready is a massive incentive for companies who know they won’t have to wait to get their operation underway when they make the decision to cross overseas.

Currently, Durham’s cache of shovel-rady land stands at about 1,800 acres. Of that, only 370 acres are considered shovel ready and suitable for sale within five years, and 120 acres is considered sellable beyond five years. What’s troubling is, the majority, 1,300 acres, is not suitable for sale at this time, with no indication of when that will become available.

Focusing on prepping these lands for development will go along way towards making sure that the investment seeds being planted by Durham’s economic team will have somewhere to go if and when they start to bloom.